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Junior guard Kayla Padilla makes a layup against Cornell during the game on Feb. 5 at the Palestra.

Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

In a thrilling win over Cornell on Wednesday, Penn women’s basketball launched itself into contention for the Ivy League Tournament. In a back-and-forth contest, Penn’s high energy and sense of urgency were key to the 70-57 win. 

Here are five of my takeaways:

  1. Penn looked active from the get-go

Right off the bat, Penn women’s basketball was off to the races. After sophomore Jordan Obi won the tipoff, junior Kayla Padilla quickly streamed down the court for an easy layup. That momentum carried on with the Red and Blue throughout the remainder of the game. The players were active with their cuts, constantly moving the ball around the half-court set. Penn was active on the glass as well, sending multiple bodies after every shot on both the offensive and defensive ends. Offensive rebounds, especially, were huge for the Quakers — Penn was able to frequently cash in off of extra offensive possessions. Kennedy Suttle, in particular, was feasting. Cornell simply had no answer for Suttle’s rebounding and finishing down low. The senior out of Atlanta, Georgia finished with six points and 17 rebounds with 11 of those being on the offensive end. In all, Penn had 21 second-chance points. 

On the defensive end, Penn had active hands and put on the pressure. The Red and Blue were hustling, closing out on shooters, and putting their bodies on the line — an early charge drawn by Mandy McGurk exemplified this and set the tone on defense early on. Despite the effort, Penn often had trouble defending the interior.

2.  Trouble defending the paint

Cornell had their way in the paint. In the game, 28 of Cornell’s 57 points came down low. If the Quakers want to make some noise going forward in the Ivy League, the team will have to tighten it up on the inside. Theresa Grace Mbanefo has been part of Cornell’s core interior presence this season. In their last game against Penn, Mbanefo found success down low putting up 12 points on 6-6 shooting in the paint. Wednesday’s rematch was no different — Mbanefo found success early on before going cold in the second half. 

In too many instances, Penn gave up good offensive positioning to the Big Red. Mbanefo, for instance, was able to successfully seal off her defender, allowing for easy points in the paint. Cornell’s offensive rebounding certainly didn’t make Penn’s interior defense statistically better, either. While not nearly as staggering as Penn’s offensive rebounding, Cornell was still able to grab 15 boards on offense; luckily for the Quakers, those rebounds only led to ten second-chance points. 

3.  Know your personnel

Shannon Mulroy torched the Quakers from three … well, sort of. While Mulroy only went 2 of 6from downtown (though, admittedly, two of those were last-minute heaves), Penn gave up too many open looks to the known shooter. Going into the game, Penn knew that Mulroy had range. In her previous game against Harvard, Mulroy hit 3-6 from downtown, helping to lead Cornell to victory. Against Penn just a few weeks ago, Mulroy shot 4-5 from deep. The fact that Mulroy was given looks from behind the arc instead of running her off of the line showed a lack of focus — the Quakers need to know their personnel. Regardless, Mulroy went cold in this rematch, and Penn was able to prevent her from getting into a rhythm.

4.  Careless turnovers need to be eliminated

Despite the activity on the offensive end, Penn’s mental focus was absent at times. Careless turnovers hindered the offense early on. There were multiple travels off the catch, at least five by my count and a handful that should have been called — slow screen-setting that led to offensive fouls, and poor entry passes into the post that led to fast break opportunities. The Big Red scored 15 points off of Penn’s 13 turnovers. As scary as Penn’s offense is now, cleaning up the turnovers would make the Red and Blue’s offense soar to new heights. 

5.  Padilla has to continue to do it all

For the entirety of the season, there’s been one name willing the Red and Blue to victory: Kayla Padilla. It’s no question that Padilla can score — she has been at her best as a pure scorer, regardless of whether the ball is in her hands or she’s playing off the catch. But Padilla has been asked to play-make more than usual this season, especially as opposing teams are locked in on her on the offensive end. After getting accustomed to a distributor mentality, Padilla has averaged 7.25 assists in the past four games. Against Cornell, however, Padilla only tallied two assists. Going forward, Padilla will need to continue finding her open teammates. After all, the whole league already knows that she can flat-out score. 

CARTER LYNN is a College junior from Potomac, Md. studying economics. He can be reached at